Combustible Dust Series: Part 6 – The Top 5 Factors to Consider for Your FR Clothing Supplier

In this explosive series, we turn our attention to a potentially deadly hazard prevalent in, but not limited to, manufacturing and processing industries: combustible dust. The series explains what combustible dust is, how the risks are quantified, what a dust hazard analysis entails, and how to mitigate the hazard and protect workers. We hope this information can be used to minimize the risk of a combustible dust flash fire or explosion in your facility.

Now that we’ve learned, in Part 5 of this series, about the key characteristics of NFPA-compliant flame resistant clothing to protect workers against combustible dust hazards, let’s turn our attention to sourcing these garments. Ensuring your workers are protected and compliant with industry standards is not something you want to leave to chance. Having the best flame resistant (FR) clothing supplier in your corner can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to combustible dust hazards. In this final installment of our Combustible Dust Series, we’ll examine the top five factors to consider when evaluating an FR clothing supplier.

1) Protective clothing is the supplier’s core competency

It’s relatively easy to source FR apparel from companies that distribute everything from soup to nuts, but in the long run, you’re selling yourself short when working with such a supplier whose knowledge is thinly spread across multiple product areas. Choosing a supplier whose primary focus is arc-rated and flame resistant (AR/FR) clothing pays dividends in the long run, as their experience and expertise become valuable resources to help you protect your workers. Suppliers whose main focus is protecting workers with AR/FR clothing often invest heavily in:

  • In-house industry experts who are well-versed on the standards that impact worker safety. They often serve as active participants in organizations like NFPA, ASTM, NSC, EEI, and IEEE that maintain responsibility for establishing protective clothing standards. These thought leaders are a vital asset when you need safety concerns addressed or answers to technical questions.
  • Strategic vendor partnerships with FR fabric and garment manufacturers that provide leading suppliers – and YOU – with exclusive access to the best and latest products, collaborative efficiencies, and supply chain continuity.
  • FRC research at leading testing sites and laboratories, such as TEEX, KEMA, and Kinectrics, to better understand real-world hazards and PPE performance. Information shared from these testing sessions is essential to educate your workers on the proper way to wear their protective clothing, ensuring their safety in the event of an incident.

2) The supplier has a proven track record

Take a long, hard look at the reputation of any FR clothing supplier you are considering. Are they a leading supplier able to sustain repeat business with a high customer retention rate? Or are they struggling to keep their customers happy due to poor service or a limited product offering? How long have they been in business? Are they equipped to service large companies with thousands of FRC wearers? When evaluating an FR clothing supplier, it pays to do your due diligence to find a supplier who checks all of the boxes. Getting locked into a multi-year contract with a sub-par supplier can be an administrative nightmare. Look for a “tried and true” supplier experienced in total program management, which eliminates the time-consuming need for your supervisory involvement.

3) The supplier maintains a large inventory of FR clothing

Suppliers who carry a large inventory of FR garments meeting the flash fire performance specifications of NFPA 2112 and other relevant industry safety standards offer several key advantages which directly impact worker safety:

  • A large inventory translates into faster lead times, allowing your workers to quickly receive the protective clothing they need to stay safe on the job.
  • Workers can choose from a broad selection of protective daily wear clothing they want to wear, keeping them comfortable and driving compliance. When wearers are satisfied with their options, they are more likely to wear them consistently and properly.
  • A large selection of women’s FR clothing is available, designed especially for women and not merely smaller versions of men’s garments. Properly fitting FR clothing is essential to keep ALL workers safe.

4) Quality is a core value of the supplier

When purchasing protective clothing for your workers, you should feel confident that the garments are free from defects and truly offer the protection stated on the label. Choosing a supplier keenly focused on quality is essential to protect your workers. Such suppliers go the extra mile to ensure that only the highest quality products are provided:

  • They vet their manufacturers stringently to verify product quality and performance.
  • They conduct rigorous garment inspections for label placement, flame resistant labeling, and sewing quality, and utilize the Acceptable Quality Limit (AQL) standard to ensure consistent product sizing and quality.
  • They conduct voluntary in-house testing to ensure the fabric meets performance specifications.
  • KPI reporting is included in your program to enable your vendor management team to evaluate the supplier’s performance quickly and efficiently.

5) The supplier offers a rich array of value-added services

There are a number of additional features offered by leading FR clothing suppliers that should be evaluated as part of your selection process, such as:

  • An online ordering platform that is efficient, secure, and user-friendly.
  • Custom online catalogs displaying items that employees are authorized to purchase.
  • Managed allowance or allotment programs to fund employee purchases.
  • Accountable service and support for program managers and FR wearers.
  • In-house embellishment services offering logo embroidery, heat transfer, and reflective striping.
  • Options for shipping directly to employees’ homes or business locations.
  • Free returns and exchanges and a product warranty on all items sold.
  • Garment fitting events to introduce employees to a new program.

Of course, there are many additional points you may want to consider, such as the supplier’s commitment to diversity, the environment, or their employee health and safety programs. Still, we feel that a thorough evaluation should focus on the top five factors we’ve listed above.

Thank you for your interest in Tyndale’s Combustible Dust series. We hope you have gained insight into ways to identify and control this deadly hazard to protect your workers as well as your business assets. We are anticipating NFPA’s release of a new consolidated combustible dust standard, currently under development with their Combustible Dust Document Consolidation Plan. When that happens, we’ll publish an update to this series, so please stay tuned!


Series: Combustible Dust

Make sure you have all the facts about the potential dangers of flash fires or explosions due to combustible dust. Access all posts in this series which explains what combustible dust is, how the risks are quantified, what a dust hazard analysis entails, and how to mitigate the hazard and protect workers.

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